Meeting the Great Pete Fountain

At the age of 10, I began learning the clarinet with a private instructor. I was unaware at the time that clarinetist Pete Fountain was a huge success on the Lawrence Welk Show. My parents knew that Pete Fountain was the clarinetist to listen to, so they bought me a record with Pete playing with a Dixieland band. I did not understand the music, but after listening to it over and over I began moving the phonograph needle to play only the clarinet solos. 20 years later, I had collected just about every Pete Fountain record he had ever recorded. A day did not go by that I didn't listen to Pete Fountain. By the time I was 30, I had never met him. I was living not far from New York at this time, and one day read that Pete Fountain, Al Hirt, and the Dukes of Dixieland were going to perform at a theater in the round in Westport, NY. I attended the concert and Pete Fountain performed during the first half. At intermission, I made my way behind the stage to see if I could meet him. There was a guard at a curtain, and I asked him if I could see Pete Fountain. He told me that if I wrote Pete a note, he would take it back to him and see if he would agree to meet me. I wrote a note on the program that said I had been listening to him since I was 10 years old and that I had all of his albums. It would be the thrill of my life if I could meet him. The guard took my program with the note and disappeared for quite a few minutes. Eventually he reappeared and said, "follow me, Mr. Fountain will see you."  I followed him back to a small room that was made of curtains, and there sat Pete Fountain. His clarinet case was open, and I could see his beautiful gold keyed clarinet. I was very nervous, as we talked for awhile. Then he pulled out a Hirschfeld caricature of himself and wrote, "to Andy, Your Friend, Pete Fountain." I'm looking at that framed picture on my wall as I write this. Since that time, I met Pete Fountain many times at his club at the Hilton Hotel in New Orleans. I would make a trip to New Orleans at least once a year for 15 years. One time during Mardi Gras, he asked me to join his Half Fast Walking Club on Fat Tuesday morning. This club was a group of musicians and friends who walked through the French Quartet playing some real good music. 

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